Ho Ho Ho… Celebrate your freedom!

Here are the top 10 reasons (in no particular order) why it’s better to be single during the holidaze.

10. You don’t have to choose whose family to go see on the holidays. You also do not have to deal with awkward family encounters.

9. You don’t have to buy anyone a present. You can buy something extra special for your mom, your cat, your bestie, or *gasp* yourself! No stress for buying that “perfect” gift for a significant or insignificant other. You also don’t have to pretend you like whatever thoughtless crap they bought you in return.

8. Kissing random people under the mistletoe. Get a piece yourself and use it as a conversation starter. Also bring breath mints and make sure there is no food in your teeth.

7. You can meet someone at a holiday party. I met my ex at a Christmas eve party and my life changed forever, in retrospect maybe not the best, but that relationship helped form who I am today. You really never know who you are going to meet. Be open.

6. You actually get to spend quality time catching up with the family. No weirdness trying to entertain your beau. Enjoy the friends and family you have in your life, love them, celebrate their importance in your life! I know I am blessed.

5. Take your own holiday portrait with your cats. Break out the ugly sweater and make your friends a personalized Christmas card they will never (ever) forget.

4. More champagne, wine, whiskey, and spiked nog for you! Sometimes caring (for yourself) is NOT sharing.

3. Get dressed up, FOR YOU! Everything sparkles this time of year. Light up your party fab wardrobe. Don’t ever regret the impossible rhinestone shoes. Glamour is everything, you deserve it.

2. Nobody is going to ask you when you are getting married or having babies! Bringing even a new person home can be the ultimate turn off when your drunk uncle goes off on a tangent or your mom grills away.

1. I know this may sound heartless-but hey. Lonely people around the holidays = lots of hook up opportunities. Take advantage of their sadness. It’s like Wedding Crashers when he started crashing funerals. Capitalize on those horny sad sexy people. Loneliness is amplified during the holidaze, cruising bars, holiday parties, and dating aps may bring you surprise singles bliss this holiday season.

Its getting bitter, nipple hard cold out there and the media is telling us to bundle up and pair off. We have been inundated with Christmas paraphanalia since before Halloween.

It is so shoved down our throats that I can’t take it. The idea of hearing Christmas music in October makes me want to kill.

Due to the suffocating holiday joy, I prefer to be the Bah Humbug she grinch. My shriveled, black heart still beats. I am single. I get sad like everyone else, but you can’t let it consume or cripple you with insecurities.

Even as I write this I have tears in my eyes, there are certain people I would like to decorate a tree with. But it’s ok. There is something beautiful about having no expectations. I spend most of my days off naked, making art, with my cats to keep me warm.

All I want for Christmas is for it to be over and be my birthday already. Commercially romanticized bullshit, cuddling in front of the fireplace, hand in hand ice skating. Blah blah blah, the holidays are stressful without the added pressure of making someone else happy.

I get sweaty easy and have weak ankles. Like every other hopeless romantic I start imagining all of the holiday love gone by, and honestly, it was disappointing.

I have been dumped right before holidays, and that seems like the worst, but is actually awesome because spending time with your family and not being alone is better than wallowing in your own self despair. For those of us who are terminally single, sick and tired of family questioning, why are you still single? Well, I am picky.

My standards have risen, I need more than just a mindless fuckboy. I want a person that is going to love me fully. Hopefully vegan, political, artistic, and kind.

I want a person to make me a better person, to compliment what completes me, to enrich the world with compassion and unbridled passion. Throw me up against the fridge, have me because you must, because I was the one you have been looking for.

That’s all I want. I will settle for nothing less. Why live inside of a snow globe when you can have the real thing? Why spoon someone when you can fill your spoon with a tub of vegan ice cream? You are in charge. Nobody can tell you what to wear, where to go, how much to drink, or anything because you are free.

Bake something and eat it all yourself. Make your own blanket fort to hibernate in. You can take this time to work on yourself, or be a lazy spud and go into the Netflix black hole of winter. If you want to make yourself better for you, then start right now.

Being single does not mean you are inadequate or unloveable. Sure it’s cold this time of year, go on some random dates and warm up with new conversation. Take this in stride and make 2017 the best year of your life.

You do not need a partner to justify you. You do not need a man or woman to feel happy or fulfilled. Self actualization and care is so important, it is something often overlooked when people become codependent in relationships.

New goals, brighter attitudes toward being single are needed. I know that I get sad every New Years that I don’t get a “special kiss”, does anyone? Only a very few get that fairytale romance, they might not even know they have it.

Nostalgia, sometimes for something you have never had, or maybe have only seen in movies, is a killer. You feel that warm and fuzzy sort of way, everything is “supposed” to fit. Don’t waste time on playing the game or being sad, be happy with what you have, write your own fairytale.

You are not broken, have hope, feel good, bask in the glory that is you.

So you may have seen that Time Magazine named Donald Trump its 2016 Person of the Year. This announcement was greeted with vocal condemnation and almost equally as vocal reminders that this isn’t an endorsement but rather an acknowledgement of the cultural and political impact Trump had in the US and around the world.

Given the fact that Time was going primarily on mainstream media narrative, Trump winning makes perfect sense. He did dominate the news coverage in 2016. If you have a problem with the result, then you should have a problem with the way the corporate media filter operates.

Instead of complaining, though, let’s simply take away that filter and see what we get. Forget the Box is going to name its own Person of the Year for 2016!

Like Time, we’re looking for the individual or group of connected individuals that had the biggest impact on our culture in the past year. Unlike Time, we’re not limiting our view of cultural impact to what is represented in the mainstream press. Social and indie media play just as big a role in our decision.

We’re giving everyone a chance to vote and are starting with some likely choices. As we’re based in Montreal, some are local and Canadian. We’ve also included Trump as a choice to be fair. If your choice is not on the list, simply state it in the comments below and we’ll add it to the options.

We do reserve the right to reject suggestions. We also reserve the right to make an editorial decision and give Person of the Year to someone other than the top vote getter, while still acknowledging who got the most votes. We probably won’t do that, but we will if the winner is Harambe (I mean, seriously, internet).

Anyways, here’s the poll, you have a week to vote. Then we’ll proudly announce FTB’s 2016 Person of the Year:

Who should be FTB's Person of the Year?

View Results

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On November 29, 2016, the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) made the recommendation women across Canada were hoping for. They recommended that Justice Robin Camp, the Alberta judge who acquitted a rapist in 2015 after making comments to the victim during the trial such as “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” be removed from office. In their inquiry report, the CJC found that Camp had made comments that suggested an aversion to laws enacted to protect the vulnerable and promote equality, and that the damage he’d done to people’s faith in our judicial system could not be fixed by sensitivity training and promises to reform after the fact.

This article, however, is not about Robin Camp. There is no disputing that Camp’s conduct during this trial revealed him to be wholly unfit to be a judge in a society where gender equality is constitutionally guaranteed and that a recommendation for removal from the bench is him getting off light in the eyes of many victims of sexual assault.

This article is about the judiciary, the Canadian Judicial Council, and the process by which Canadians hold federal judges accountable for their behavior on the bench.

Removing a Judge

One of the tenets of democracy is the existence of an independent judiciary. For the judicial system to work it must act independently of the influences of the executive and legislative branches of government, as embodied in Canada by the Prime Minister and his cabinet and the House of Commons and Senate.

The way our founders attempted to ensure this independence was by putting rules in our constitution that require that judges be appointed not elected, and once appointed, they get to keep their position “on good behavior” until the age of retirement.

Before the creation of the Canadian Judicial Council in 1971, the only way to get a federally appointed judge removed from the bench was to have the government recommend his removal to the House of Commons and Senate. That all changed in the late sixties with the Leo Landreville scandal.

Leo Landreville was a former Sudbury mayor who’d been appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario. While he was mayor, he got involved in some shady stock dealings that came to light while he was a judge and led to criminal charges including corruption. The ensuing scandal prompted Lester B. Pearson to recommend his removal from the bench to Parliament in 1967, and was one of the events to spark the creation of the CJC.

The Canadian Judicial Council

The Canadian Judicial Council was created with the goal of promoting efficiency, uniformity, and accountability in Canada’s Judicial System. It consists of thirty-nine members and is led by the Chief Justice of Canada’s Supreme Court, currently the Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin. The Council meets twice a year and while their primary responsibility is to set policies and create tools that allow the judicial system to work better, it has the added task of investigating complaints against judges.

The Council can only investigate complaints against federally appointed judges. They cannot investigate or overturn a judge’s decision in a case. To get a judge’s decision overturned, you have to go through the appeals courts. What the CJC can do is investigate a judge’s conduct, but to get them to do that, you have to follow the complaint process.

As per the Judges Act, the CJC must start an inquiry of a federal judge upon request by the federal justice minister or the attorney general of a given province. The Council can also choose to investigate any other complaints or allegations made against a judge. In the case of Robin Camp, for example, the complaint was initially made by four law professors.

Unlike many other government applications, a complaint to the CJC does not require specific forms, there is no application fee and no deadline. All you do is submit a complaint in writing about a named federally-appointed judge about their conduct and not their decision(s) via snail mail.

The Canadian Judicial Council then reviews the complaint and where necessary, conducts an inquiry and releases a report. In the report they can recommend that the judge remain on the bench, be removed from the bench, be granted paid leave, or if the judge resigns before the age of mandatory retirement, the Council can recommend they continue to get an annuity.

If the Council recommends the judge’s removal, the Federal government can then go to the House of Commons and Senate within fifteen days of the removal recommendation and publicly remove the person from office. Federal judges can only be removed for the following reasons:

  • Age or infirmity
  • Having been guilty of misconduct
  • Having failed in the due execution of that office
  • Having been placed, by his or her conduct or otherwise, in a position incompatible with the due execution of that office

Justice Camp was recommended for removal from the bench for misconduct and the fact that it happened during a rape trial amplified the magnitude of his actions. Rape trials are widely and justifiably believed to be tainted by bias and prejudice so the appearance of impartiality and fairness in the presiding judge is extremely important.

A judge who seems to favor one side over the other from the get-go damages society’s faith in the fairness of our judicial system, and a lack of faith in the law and the people who interpret and enforce it will ultimately lead to vigilantism and anarchy.

The Canadian Judicial Council is an important check on federal judges who may take for granted that their jobs are secure in order to ensure their independence. It’s important but it’s not perfect.

Since its creation only four judges have been recommended for removal by the Council in recognition that judges need freedom to criticize the law, talk to witnesses and lawyers, and conduct proceedings in order to make sure justice is served.

Neda Topaloski, one of the FEMEN activists who disturbed the 2015 Montreal Grand Prix, had her second and final day in court today. As per FEMEN’s usual tactics, Topalski protested bare-chested during the high profile event, and in a national first, she is now facing criminal charges for it.

“We’re in Canada and there’s no precedent for such cases. Our bodies are our banners for our values and ideas. It’s the first time there is an attempt to criminalize them,” explained Topaloski in a phone interview with FTB on Thursday morning. According to her, it’s the state of democracy and freedom in Canada that is at stake in this trial.

Topaloski was arrested on June 4th 2015, after she appeared topless in front of one of the showcased cars on Crescent Street and yelled “Montreal is not a brothel!”

She was referring to the sexual tourism that doubles or triples every time the high profile Grand Prix is organised in Montreal. She was initially charged on four counts, but the charges of indecency and exhibitionism were dropped last week. The crown is thus going forward with charges of mischief and disturbing the peace.

Topaloski claims FEMEN’s actions are a non-violent form of political expression and should not be criminalized. “Seeing activism as disturbance of peace is absolutely perverse, because expression doesn’t trouble peace, violence troubles peace,” she argued.

She was also accused of mischief. The crown alleges she dented the hood of the car she was leaning on during the stunt. The activist says that this is “absolutely impossible.” She notes that the Grand Prix is always full of pictures of women sitting on cars for publicity purposes and that none of them faced such accusations.

The Grand Prix: “A powerful lobby”

This is the first time a FEMEN protest has resulted in criminal charges in Canada, despite several public actions of the same sort. Topaloski believes that she is only being prosecuted this time because She managed to “sully the image of the Grand Prix.”

“It bothers this powerful lobby and it is because of their pressure that we are charged this time, but not the time that we were in the Canadian parliament, nor the time we were at the National Assembly in Quebec.”

In April 2015, Neda Topaloski interrupted a press conference about Law 20 at the National Assembly. She irrupted topless on stage to protest against the new law’s failure to prioritize free and accessible abortion.  She had done a similar act on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest C-51 just a few weeks earlier.

Allegations of excessive use of force

On Wednesday, Topaloski’s lawyer immediately moved to have all the charges thrown on the grounds that the arrest was unlawful. She argued that the Grand Prix’s private security made an excessive use of force.

“It was more than an arrest; I was dragged on the floor, still topless, they pulled my hair out…” recalls Topaloski. She highlights that their behaviour was wildly different from what she has seen from police officers in similar situations.

“[The security guards] were trying to prove that they were the guys in control of the situation and of the value of women. They used that situation to abuse, physically and violently.”

A video of the arrest was submitted to the court as proof. Although she is not sure of this move’s potential success, Topaloski explained that it is important for her to “shed light on those who perpetuate violence rather than those who protest for equality and are repressed and targeted by violence because of it.”

The court will probably not reach a verdict today, but Topaloski says she trusts that “common sense” and “constitutional rights” will prevail: “I have the law and the constitution on my side. Therefore, I hope that the judge will be able to recognize this.”

 

Its funny to me that when I am trying to get laid it never happens. I want things to be perfect, I want candlelit romance with fine wine and the sweetest leaf.

If I clean my room, dye my hair, take a shower, gussy myself up, and go out crusin’ lone wolf style it is 100% certainty that I will come home alone, drunk, and disappointed. The nights that I am absolutely irresistible are the nights that my crotch smells like yesterday’s left out cat food, I am wearing a frumpy sweater, no makeup, no inhibitions, possibly bleeding, definitely not looking any kinda way.

Saturday I went out on a whim and never expected to even talk to someone, let alone take them back to my car like the true dirt grub I am. This boy was cute as a button. It was the same night as The World’s Largest Disco, so it wasn’t weird that he was wearing polyester bell bottoms. He looked so young and eager to please. Must have been 21, but dangerously close to it.

He told me that I was his favorite Stripteaser, that he loved how I took chances and was politically charged in my work. Ok, tell me more. He said that he had been coming to the show every week for a few months but was too scared to talk to me. ME?

At this point he had my full attention. We had an incredible conversation about art and the state of politics and the world in general. I was in awe of how much he was in awe of me. It was bizarre for this beautiful boy to be such a fan girl.

The bar closed and he was shocked when I asked him what he was doing after. His friends called him both a “savage” and a “pimp” as they watched us walk away. We were just going to my car to light one up and then started making out.

I forgot for a second that I didn’t brush my teeth that day and had just peed in an ally. It was excellent. He made me feel like a teenager. We kissed, he touched me, I touched him. He kept accidentally bumping into the horn, it was cute.

The cherry on top of this story is when he was fingering me and Nickelback came on the radio, I couldn’t help but laugh. Almost 30 years old and I am being finger banged in my car to Nickleback.

What is this life I live? I wasn’t going to have sex with him in my car, so I eventually bid him farewell. With a hickey on my neck and my heart racing I saw him disappear into the night. Of course I said “See you next Tuesday.”

I feel like an idiot for letting him go without even getting his last name or phone number. I was swept up in the moment. I wonder if I will ever see him again?

I need to be more of an “act now” kind of girl, stop second guessing everything. I let him walk off because my room was a disaster and I was embarrassed. I let him walk off because I didn’t shower that day or feel worthy of his sweetness and affection. He wanted to stay, but I pushed him away.

He did not show up at The Stripteasers show. Well that’s that. For my show I even dressed as Chad (the lead singer of Nickelback). I had done Nickelback about a year ago as a joke and still had the costume. My roommate joked “Bro, you know what this means? You have a NICKELBACK routine!”

It was incredible, I gave every person who tipped me a dollar a nickel back. The bar phone rang an hour later and it was a man calling saying that his girlfriend forgot her nickel and wanted it back.

“It was special because the performer gave it to her” I ran to my car to dig for a nickel that would be special enough to be cherished forever. When I gave it to her later she did not recognize me out of drag.

buffalonickels
I am often paralyzed by my own self doubt, I think that someone so beautiful would never ever be interested in me. I see my flaws like roadblocks with flares shooting off of them. I often feel like the only person in the world who is alone.

I know thats just crazy, but the feeling is real. I feel old and inadequate. Like by now I should be successful. I mean, it is all how you measure success, I guess.

I don’t make much money but I am happy, I love my job, it is stress free and wonderful. I love burlesque, I love the time I spend traveling, I love so much about my life, it would just be nice to share it with someone.

sexychadThe times I have fallen for people it has been hard, always one sided, just me not seeing the obvious, just me getting my head smashed, never their fault, always mine for assuming I will get what I want. I am an only child spoiled girl who also has white privilege and middle class money, so I am comfortable, I am safe.

I was born into middle-class America. I have all the makings of a cookie cutter success, I did well in school and got a college degree. I am beautiful, symmetrical, I have great teeth because my parents got me braces. I am an artist. I am a fucking catch. Single, sleeping alone with my crust skin and my lovely cats, surrounded by piles of costumes.

I get laid when I least expect it, so love will be the same. Love is inconvenient and imperfect, it has no rhyme or reason. You cannot control love. People fall in and out of our lives at random.

I never understood the people who had it all planned out: in 5 years I will be married with a child and a house with a white picket fence, there’s a mini van in the driveway and a golden retriever in the yard. These people will settle for the first available mate, the first person who is willing to also be tied to that plan.

I am insane, I could never plan my life like that, I don’t even know what I want, let alone how to find it. I will never settle, I will never be unhappy or partially happy. I will know it when I see it. I will know who I love when I meet them.

Was it the guy in my car that I sent off into the night? Was it that beautiful girl in Montreal with the pink hair and glasses? Was it the one that got away? It is most likely someone I have never met, but maybe seen in passing, maybe they know me, I am just oblivious.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding female lawyers lately. First, there was the rumour that Hillary Clinton mocked the twelve year old rape victim of a man she was charged with defending during her days working at a legal aid clinic in 1975. The second was with the announcement that Jian Ghomeshi’s attorney Marie Henein was planning on speaking at Canadian schools.

Female attorneys are judged more harshly than male lawyers for the cases they take, and it has to do with the perception of why they got into the profession. Male lawyers are usually believed to have gone into law for money and power, whereas female lawyers are perceived to have gone into it to save the world and protect the innocent.

It should be noted that the rumour that Clinton mocked a rape victim turned out to be just that, a rumour. The story was circulated by racist misogynist now president-elect and right wing groups supporting him. When fact checking organizations like Politifact looked into it, it was revealed that recording was of Hillary Clinton mocking the Arkansas crime lab for accidentally destroying DNA evidence linking her client to the crime and NOT the victim. For many people it does not matter who she was mocking because like Henein, she is a woman who defended a rapist.

Women who defend rapists are vilified as being traitors to their sex. It does not make sense to many that a woman could defend someone who violated another, despite the fact that male lawyers defend rapists all the time regardless of whether the victims were male or female. What people seem to forget is that female lawyers are bound by the same rules as their male counterparts so it’s high time we looked at what those rules actually are.

The rules governing the behavior of lawyers vary from province to province and country to country, but in liberal democracies they are all based on the same principles of rule of law and an accused’s right to a fair trial and defense.

In Quebec, lawyers are bound by many laws including An Act Respecting the Barreau du Quebec, the Code of Professions, and the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers which they have to study as part of their preparation for the Bar exam. The Code of Professional Conduct sets out some of the basic rules of practice for lawyers towards their clients, the public, and with regards to the administration of justice. Here are some of the rules lawyers have to follow as per the latter Code.

The Code defines a lawyer’s client as any person or organization that a lawyer provides or undertakes to provide professional services for.

Lawyers are bound by law to act for their clients with integrity, competence, loyalty, confidentiality, impartiality, diligence, and prudence.

Attorneys cannot engage in their professional activities if they are in a state or under conditions that would compromise the quality of their services. That means that if, for example, an attorney knows he makes bad decisions after a few drinks, he is legally bound not to act as an attorney after having those drinks.

A lawyer has to act in their client’s best interests at all times. In doing so, they must act in compliance with the rule of law and in a way as to establish and maintain a relationship of trust with the client.

Lawyers also have to respect a client or prospective client’s right to choose their counsel, and cannot provoke disputes in order to get their business.

Most importantly to the perception of attorneys, it should be noted that lawyers are allowed to agree to act for a client no matter what their opinion on said client’s guilt or liability is. One could argue that a lawyer’s decision to defend a client whose innocence they doubt is what makes the difference between the bloodsuckers and the heroes, but it’s not if you consider that our legal system is based on the notion of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and it’s certainly not if you believe everyone has the right to the best defense possible.

It should also be noted that there are many things lawyers are not allowed to do.

Lawyers in Quebec have to avoid all methods and attitudes that would give the profession “a profit-seeking character” by making it look like they became an attorney just to get rich.

Though lawyers have to support and respect the rule of law, they are allowed to criticize and contest legal provisions or their interpretations and applications for a good reason. They are not allowed to help, advise, encourage, or facilitate their clients to engage in behavior they know or SHOULD know is unlawful or fraudulent. Lawyers are also forbidden from concealing or not disclosing what the law obliges them to disclose.

In light of all the controversial cases before the courts, people should not take the silence of a lawyer as a sign of their client’s guilt. The law says that lawyers in Quebec are not allowed to make public statements or communicate information to the media about a matter that is pending before the courts “if the lawyer knows or should know that the information or statements could adversely affect a tribunal’s authority or prejudice a party’s right to a fair trial or hearing.”

The perception of lawyers in our society ranges from bloodsucker to hero and there are many good examples that justify both sets of beliefs. Regardless of what you think of the legal profession, we owe it to our society not to use the a person’s gender identity as the gauge whether a lawyer is acting in the greater good or selling it out for money.

At the end of the day what matters is whether they offered their clients the best possible legal representation while respecting and obeying the very laws they studied.

* Featured image: Courtroom sketch of Marie Henein defending Jian Ghomeshi

Montreal is a great city. The diversity of our population is unmatched in most of Canada, we are unilingual by provincial law, bilingual by federal law, but if you walk down our streets you’ll hear everything from Tagalog to Hebrew spoken.

We have an impressive nightlife and artists from around the world come to perform at our annual festivals. Despite all its diversity, and action, there are many areas where Montreal could use some improvement, especially if you drive a car.

Parking in Montreal is a nightmare.

Part of the city’s parking problem is due to all the construction. When snow and ice aren’t interfering with road work, parking is compromised by construction that takes huge chunks out of the streets.

There’s very little indoor parking despite high demand, and the existing indoor and outdoor lots in the downtown core are heavily taxed by the City. What’s left are areas taken up by signs reserving parking spaces for residents, and everything else seems to have a parking meter on it.

There’s a saying that in life there’s no such thing as a free ride, but in the City of Montreal there’s no such thing as free parking.

Montreal Parking Law

To prevent a few headaches, I’ve decided to give you all a crash course on Montreal’s parking laws. These rules apply only to the City of Montreal, which includes such boroughs as NDG/Cote des Neiges, the downtown core, and the Plateau. Areas on the Island that operate independently of the City of Montreal, such as the City of Cote-Saint-Luc and Westmount have their own rules.

The City of Montreal’s parking rules should be easily accessible online, but they aren’t. Most of the city’s online resources for parking are devoted to helping people pay parking meters and tickets.

The law itself is the By-Law Concerning Traffic and Parking and is almost impossible to find online unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. The most updated version is only available in French so if you don’t know the language, you’re screwed.

montreal-parking-meter
Image: WikiMedia Commons

If you get a parking ticket, the ticket WILL indicate what rule you are deemed to have violated, but it will usually list the number of the offense, not the whole rule, probably due to the size constraints of the ticket itself.

Here’s what the law says:

On public land belonging to the City of Montreal, you are not allowed to park anywhere prohibited by a sign. If a sign states that there’s no parking in an area outside of certain hours, you are not allowed to park there outside of those hours. If the sign says the spot is reserved for other vehicles like taxis, for example, you can’t park there if you’re not driving a taxi. Unless there’s a sign posted expressly allowing you to park in an alleyway, it is illegal. Same goes for parking on median strips or traffic islands.

If a parking space is blocked or barred by an official barrier, a system of orange lights, a removable no parking sign, or there’s a cover on the parking meter, you’re not allowed to park there. If stopping is forbidden in a designated area by law, bylaw, or regulation, that area is not a viable parking space either.

Parking is forbidden in public parks except in areas officially designated for parking by signs. Offroad parking is also forbidden.

If a spot has a parking meter, you can’t park there without paying it. The exception is if you parked in that spot outside of the hours in which you are obliged to pay, and those are always indicated on the meter.

The City parking meters only accept Canadian currency, but thanks to modern technology you can pay by credit card and even by app. It is against the law to do anything that will keep the parking meter from working, and no two vehicles can take up one spot covered by a single meter.

Getting a Parking Ticket

If you break the rules, you will get a parking ticket either handed to you, left on your windshield, or sent to you by mail. The ticket, officially called a “statement of offense” will require you to pay a fine. Fines for parking violations range between thirty and two hundred bucks.

You have two options for responding to the ticket: you can plead guilty and pay it, or plead not guilty and contest it. Both options have a deadline of about thirty days. If you do nothing, a judge may rule against you by default and order you to pay the fine and any additional costs.

Contesting the ticket is entirely up to you, but there a few things to consider. You need to think about the cost of biting the bullet and paying the fine versus the time, cost, and stress related to contesting the ticket in court. You also need to brutally honest with yourself as to whether or not you deserved it.

If you opt to contest the ticket, you can do so by giving notice within the thirty days you have to respond. Just follow the instructions on the back of your ticket. The court will eventually send you a hearing date. On court day, bring any documents you have to prove your version of events such as photos taken the day you got the ticket, and bring a copy of the police report.

If you live and work in an area facilitated by Montreal’s public transit system, you can avoid the problems and cost of a car by investing in tickets or a pass. The bus and metro have their own set of problems, but in many ways they are a lot faster than taking a car.

If you have a driver’s license you can always follow many Montrealers in occasionally renting a car or joining a carshare service like Communauto so you have access to a vehicle when you occasionally need it.

Parking in Montreal is a pain, and with everything going on, we could all use less of it. Don’t suffer.

* Featured image: Goethe.de, Creative Commons

On November 8, 2016 the United States of America elected a racist, misogynist, rapist scam artist as President. Prior to the election people spoke of how, if this KKK poster child were elected, they’d promptly move to Canada.

The tone of many in the US was similar to that of Judith Viorst’s hero in the popular children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day who pronounces after every misfortune that’s he’s going to move to Australia.

There has been no mass migration of Americans to Canada yet, despite Cheeto-head’s election (I refuse to call him by name because he has an orgasm every time he is mentioned in the press), but people in the US have been looking into it. On November 8th Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) website crashed.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that easy to move to Canada. In order to spare CIC and Immigration Quebec’s websites, I’m going to give you a crash course on Canadian Immigration law and the programs through which one can come here.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to go over the main, less expensive paths to permanent Canadian Immigration, leaving out temporary programs like student and visitor’s visas and work permits, however, it is important for prospective residents to maintain their legal visitor status when applying for permanent residency.

Family Sponsorship

The main federal program in which someone can permanently immigrate to Canada is family sponsorship. The Federal Government administers this program in all provinces except Quebec. The Quebec Government is in charge of the federal program for applicants seeking to move to the province and have their own criteria in some cases.

Family sponsorship becomes the most popular program when a candidate threatening the fundamental freedoms of Americans runs for election. Many believe that all you have to do is marry a Canadian and presto! You’re in, right?

Wrong.

Family sponsorship allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to bring their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, and/or children to Canada. The definition of what constitutes a spouse and children is available on both the CIC and Immigration Quebec websites.

In order to sponsor someone, you need to prove you have the money to meet the person’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, support them financially for a given period of time so that they don’t need to seek financial help from the government. Veracity of the relationship is weighed more heavily, though, than the financial status. In order to qualify to be a sponsor, you have to be a citizen or permanent resident age 18 or older.

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If you yourself were sponsored as a spouse and became a permanent resident less than five years earlier, you cannot be a sponsor. You are also ineligible if you have declared bankruptcy which has yet to be discharged. If you have an outstanding immigration loan, you won’t be granted a sponsorship application.

You cannot be a sponsor if you have been convicted in Canada or abroad of sexual or violent crimes or threats of committing them or if you are in default of court ordered alimony payments.

In Quebec, you cannot be a sponsor if you are a current welfare recipient, the exception being if you receive benefits due to your age or a disability that keeps you from long term employment. Sponsors in Quebec are also forbidden from sponsoring a spouse who is under the age of consent in Canada (16).

Let’s say requirements are met and all the right forms and documents have been submitted. It should just be a couple of months before the person can move to Canada, right?

Wrong!

Processing times vary depending on what country the sponsored relative is coming from. At the federal level, the government is currently working its way through a backlog of applications. If you are sponsoring your American spouse, for example, you both could be waiting at least 14 months for processing, but that time will also allow CIC to assess you as a sponsor.

Skilled Workers

* Ed’s Note: Changes were recently made to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, adding additional hoops to jump through, including when you apply, that aren’t mentioned in the text below. The Quebec Government lists some of them on their website.

Then there is the Quebec Skilled Worker Program. The program allows you to get a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). By itself, the CSQ is worthless, but it does make it easier to become a Permanent Resident. Only when you become a Permanent Resident can you actually move to Canada.

The CSQ program is a points system based primarily on you (and your spouse’s) education, age, work experience, and knowledge of French and English. You can get a copy of the evaluation grid online but remember that the government changes the grid every few years.

In order to get points for language proficiency, you must provide the results of French and English tests recognized by the Quebec government, and documents in a format other than Immigration Quebec’s preferred format can lead to delays or a refusal of the application. Unfortunately, the government also has a quota of how many CSQ applications they accept annually, so check the website regularly to make sure it’s not too late.

Do you need a lawyer to help you immigrate?

Not really; it’s just a matter of correctly filling out forms, getting the right documents and fees together, and sending them to the right place on time. All of this information is available online. However, if you have trouble with one or both of Canada’s official languages or are contesting a decision, it’s better to get the advice of an expert. There are scores of qualified individuals working in this field who can help you.

The process is long and annoying but if you get here, we promise to welcome you, eh!

* This post was updated November 16th, 2016

A few years ago, it was late and the party was winding down. In the background, whatever playlist we were using changed the tune and the first bars of Famous Blue Raincoat started playing. The volume was low and most people were focused on where they had to get to, then someone asked the room “What time is it?” And Leonard Cohen answered through our makeshift sound system:

After we all laughed, someone actually checked the time and, turns out Leonard Cohen was right. It was just after 4am. On the Plateau, a few blocks from where Cohen had written some of his most famous songs. Where he lived for many years with Marianne Ihlen. Yes, So Long, Marianne is named after her, not Marie-Anne street that borders Parc du Portugal.

The couple first lived on St-Laurent then moved to the other side of the park on Vallières Street. where Cohen still owned a home right up until his passing. No matter where his primary residence may have been, he always came back to Montreal for a visit. He also kept in touch with Ihlen for decades after the couple split, even writing a letter before she passed away herself last July which included the now prophetic line “I will follow you very soon.”

His doorway is now a makeshift memorial with Cohen music playing out of an old boombox as people continue to leave candles, pictures and other messages as a tribute to the man’s life and the poetry and music he left us. There was a large gathering of Cohen fans, friends and neighbours and a group singing of some of his biggest hits Saturday and another memorial gathering by the Portuguese community today.

A similar shrine has popped up outside the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, made famous in this Cohen tune:

While New York mourns him, a city where he lived and wrote for quite a while, and the rest of the world will surely miss him, too. Montreal was always a part of Cohen and he has been a part of our culture for decades and will be for decades more.

People have been floating ideas for a permanent memorial, like renaming a street, a part of a street or building some sort of monument. Some have even suggested renaming Parc du Portugal in his honour, which would take the approval of the Plateau Borough and the Portuguese Community, but seems the most likely to me along with possibly re-naming Vallières to honour him. Renaming Marie-Anne as some have suggested just wouldn’t make sense.

It was even suggested, by the new PQ leader of all people, to give Cohen a state funeral a la Rene Angelil, but then we found out that he had already been buried. Turns out Cohen passed away on Monday in Los Angeles and his body was flown to Montreal for a small family funeral on Thursday afternoon, after which he was interred in his family’s plot on the foot of Mount Royal.

Then, Thursday evening, Cohen’s official Facebook page notified the world that the man who was a legend had left us. No chance of a large, expensive and ostentatious affair paid for with public funds. Leonard Cohen saw to it that his funeral would be a low key affair, in perfect keeping with his style.

Over the past few days, quite a few of my fellow Montrealers have been posting about encounters they had with Cohen on social media and telling their anecdotes to reporters. While I never had the opportunity to run into him myself, I vicariously feel like I have.

All the stories paint a similar picture. That of a total gentleman who would hold the door for a stranger carrying too much stuff, would leave the house impeccably dressed no matter what time it was or what he was doing, would hang around as a member of the community without any pretension, respectful of his neighbours and pleasant to any random fan who happened to catch his eye.

Through his music and lyrics, we all got the chance to know him. He was a down-to-earth guy who had an uncanny ability to observe and understand human nature and the gift to be able to translate that understanding into brilliantly crafted lyrics. He also had the forethought to realize that if he set those lyrics to music and delivered them more like a poet with a backup band than a traditional singer it would work.

When it came to politics, he was a cynic, sure. But even at his most cynical, he was also optimistic:

but he always kept it real:

and was fierce fighter:

The impact this man had on the culture at large, the culture here in Montreal and millions of people, most who never met him, is immeasurable. I tried to include as many tunes as possible in this post, but it barely scratches the surface of even just my favourite Leonard Cohen songs, let alone what this legend had to offer over the decades.

Leonard Cohen, so long, sir, you will always be with us.

The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.

These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.

At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).

Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.

By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.

Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.

Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.

The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.

Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.

Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”

Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.

This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.

All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.

The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.

Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:

“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”

Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.

refugee-hotel-2

Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening.  The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”

According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.

As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.

Poster by Rashad Nilamdeen.

Protests, like potholes, are a year-round occurance in Montreal. The economy is in the toilet, tuition costs are on the rise, and Prime Minister Trudeau has turned his back on the young people whose coattails he rode into office.

Young people voted for Trudeau hoping that he would help stabilize employment in Canada only to be told to get used to temporary, low paying jobs without benefits. Quebeckers voted for Philippe Couillard hoping to do away with the Parti Québecois’ message of aggressive xenophobic secularism and language issues only to find the provincial government raising the language and signage disputes people are sick of. Municipal austerity measures are coming at the expense of the pensions our blue collar workers worked so hard for.

Votes don’t seem to count anymore and the cynicism pushed by bitter columnists is proving true. With the government ignoring the reason they were voted into office, people are forcing the government to listen by taking to the streets.

Everyone from students to cops to healthcare workers to Native leaders are taking to the streets with pickets, hoping to have their voices heard. Like the potholes, the City of Montreal has a pathetic track record of dealing with protests, reverting to persecution rather than reasonable negotiation. To our elected officials, protesters are not frustrated human beings with legitimate concerns but noisemakers and disruptors.

Laws Used Against Protesters

With the cops using their authority to assault people desperate to be heard, it’s time to look at the laws the government uses and overuses to suppress dissenters.

Let’s start with the Canadian Criminal Code.

Protesters are commonly charged with assault, harassment, mischief, unlawful assembly, and obstructing police officers. Since I addressed mischief in my piece on Devil’s Night, let’s look at the rest.

Assault is defined as applying force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. The penalty is up to five years in prison unless the person is tried on summary conviction, which carries a lesser penalty. If a weapon is used in the assault, the penalty increases to a maximum of ten years, or if tried on summary conviction, a minimum of eighteen months. Since the definition of assault is so vague, it can range from hitting or kicking, to simply pushing and shoving.

Harassment is the act of engaging in conduct that would make a person feel harassed, which includes following them, repeatedly communicating with them, and watching their workplace. As protests often occur in front of government buildings where elected officials work, and repeated communication is the only way they feel they can be heard, it is far too easy for those ignoring them to call it harassment. Harassment is a serious charge, with a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, and its broad definition bears the risk of overuse.

Unlawful Assembly is when three or more people get together for a common purpose and their group causes the surrounding neighborhood to fear a disturbance of the peace. Unfortunately many protests, even peaceful, are noisy. An unlawful assembly charge, which fortunately only runs the risk of a summary conviction, is applied willy nilly by authorities to punish protesters.

Obstructing a police officer is a charge that became popular against protesters this past summer when people stormed the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings to voice their dissent against the proposed Energy East pipeline. To be convicted of this charge, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person resisted, willfully obstructed, or did not assist a public or peace officer in the execution of his or her duties. The penalty is up to two years in prison unless there is a summary conviction.

Protesters are also punished with municipal bylaws.

The municipal bylaw used to punish protesters is bylaw P-6, formally called the “By-law concerning the prevention of breaches of the peace, public order and safety, and the use of public property”.

The bylaw was added to by former Mayor Gerald Tremblay in 2012 following the massive student protests against tuition hikes. Article 2.1 of the bylaw requires assemblies, parades, or gatherings in public places to disclose their itineraries to authorities prior to the event. Article 3.2 of the bylaw makes it illegal for protesters to cover their faces with a scarf or hood without a reasonable motive.

Both of these articles were ruled unconstitutional by Judge Chantal Masse of the Superior Court on June 22, 2016, following a successful challenge by Julien Villeneuve, a CEGEP professor who attended the protests in a panda costume.

Laws that Protect Protesters

We know about the laws used to punish protesters. Now let’s talk briefly about the laws meant to protect them and all of us.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched in our constitution guarantees freedom of thought, opinion, and expression. It guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. It also guarantees the right against arbitrary detention. In spite of this, protesters are arrested left and right and their protests, no matter how peaceful, are punished as being unlawful.

Then there’s the Quebec Charter, a quasi-constitutional law entrenched in Quebec legislation. Like the Canadian Charter, it guarantees freedom of assembly and association.

Our criminal laws are also in place to protect, yet they are used to suppress protesters not keep them safe. Police officers who act prematurely by shooting rubber bullets and smashing people with batons rarely see any consequences for their actions, confirming the protesters’ belief that they are there to persecute, not protect.

Protests may be a public nuisance but they are a necessary one. As long as the government refuses to listen to the people who elected them, the protests will continue. As long as people feel voiceless, they will take to the streets to make sure they are heard.

For every time the government betrays the ones who voted for them, hundreds pickets will spring up. The act of listening and communication is the key to most conflict resolution. If politicians want the protesting to stop, they have to start listening.

* Featured image by Cem Ertekin

Thousands of people lined up on the McGill campus Wednesday night waiting hours for a chance to be part of a videoconference with Edward Snowden.

(No, not the guy from Wikileaks, that’s Julien Assange and the only thing they have in common is an outstanding warrant against them for leaking information that the American government wanted kept secret. Snowden revealed that the government agency he worked for, the NSA, was spying on ordinary people on a scale that is neither legitimate nor legal. Basically, he proved that the US and many other countries, including Canada, engaged in mass surveillance. This means the government collects things like your phone records, your videos, your internet data, regardless of whether you are suspected of criminal activity or not.)

You might have missed the videoconference because you were among the thousands of understandably irritated fans left outside after both auditoriums were filled. Maybe you decided to go home after almost getting trampled for the third time in the line-up. Maybe you stayed home to watch the Cubs win.

We can’t recreate for you the distinct Rock Show feel of the overexcited line of people randomly cheering and periodically lurching forward in a panic to get inside, nor the barely concealed distress of the moderator as the video entirely cut off after random people started joining the video call.

The event did not run smoothly by any stretch of the imagination. Less than half of the people who lined up got inside the building. The conference was more than an hour late and the organizers managed to make the Google hangout public, which let to technical difficulties of frankly comedic proportions.

The fact that AMUSE/PSAC, the association representing 1000 members of support staff (most of them also students) at McGill was on strike and picketing arguably didn’t help matters. They became the prime target of the people’s frustration.

However, Edward Snowden himself came to their defense. He encouraged the people present to “hear them out” and reminded the audience of how hard being a dissident could be.

Mishaps aside, the conference happened and Snowden managed to say a lot of interesting things during it. Here are a few of them.

“Surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic control.”

Mass surveillance was a lesser problem when it wasn’t so easy. Not so long ago, it took a whole team to track one person’s activity. Now it’s the opposite. One lone government official can easily track the activities of many people.

The safeguards against the abuse of this power have not developed as quickly. This means that Intelligence agencies have less accountability than ever, while their powers keep growing thanks to evolving technologies.

“This inverts the traditional dynamic of private citizens and public officials into this brave new world of private officials and public citizens.”

This, Snowden says, is perfectly illustrated by the recent revelations about the SPVM spying on Patrick Lagacé. It was revealed earlier this week that the SPVM and the SQ have put the La Presse reporter and at least six other journalists under surveillance in an effort to discover their confidential sources. Snowden called it a “radical attack on the operations of a free press” and “a threat to the traditional model of our democracy.”

But the actions were authorized by the court. For Snowden, this is a sign that the “law is beginning to fail as a guarantor of our rights.”

Intelligence officials have overtly admitted that they would interpret the word of the law as loosely as they could to fit their interests, regardless of the actual intent of the law. In practice, this translates to using anti-terrorist measures to spy on environmental activists or getting access to a journalist’s internet data through a bill meant to fight cyber-bullying.

 “How do we ensure that we can trust intelligence agencies and officials to operate the law fairly? The answer is we can’t.”

We can’t trust intelligence officials to respect the spirit of the law; in fact, we can’t even trust them to respect the law itself, argued Snowden. Intelligence gathering programs have broken the law more than once, he reminded, often without consequences.

“What we can do,” he continued, “is put processes in place to ensure that we don’t have to.” He believes the key of these processes is an independent judicial authority able to oversee intelligence gathering operations and prosecute them when needed.

Canada actually has the weakest intelligence oversight out of any major western country.”

Now they’re not the most aggressive,” he conceded, “they don’t have the largest scale, but…. no one is really watching.”

The powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) have drastically increased in the last 15 years.  Law C-51, in particular, allows them to decide under any motive – however far-fetched – who constitutes a threat to national security and can thus be spied on. “The current Prime Minister did campaign to reform [C-51] and has failed to do so,” reminded Snowden.

The resources to oversee the CSIS, meanwhile, have decreased. The office of the Inspector General, which used to be a major part of it, was simply cut by Stephen Harper. This left the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) as the sole entity reporting to parliament on intelligence agencies. Its members are politically appointed.

CSIS is not the only intelligence gathering agency. The Canadian Border Security Agency, Global Affairs Canada and the National Defense Department all have the power to infringe on the rights of people, including the right to privacy, in certain circumstances and there is no credible authority overseeing them.

Retired Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence Kurt Jensen pleaded for changing this situation in an article published last January. “Remember the old adage of who will watch the watchers? In Canada the answer is no one,” he wrote.

Since then, the government has started a process to review the oversight of intelligence gathering operations. Public hearings about the matter have started in September. Incidentally, this week, a judge ruled that the CSIS has been unwittingly conducting illegal mass surveillance since 2006.

The conference ended on an inspirational note, with Snowden addressing the students:

“We can have a very dark future or a very bright future but the ultimate determination of which fork in the road we take won’t be my decision, it won’t be the government decision, it will be your generation’s decision.”

So I was at work and a young male customer was using the communal computer, totally normal right? I was minding my own business doing work, answering emails ect, and then I noticed a faint but familiar fapping sound that could not be much other than a man beating his meat. I’m vegetarian and not interested, Bro.

I instantly looked up and the sound stopped, he looked forward at the screen, no hands in site. This repeated for a little while, I couldn’t believe it. It was nearing the end of my night, I must just be tired. He couldn’t possibly be jerking off right in front of me right? Naw, no man would be that incredibly rude.

I was able to go into the office and peek through the blinds a little to see what he had up on the screen and there was nothing, only the desktop. I mean come on man, I know I am sexy, you probably have never seen a woman so beautiful and powerful as the one standing before you, BUT that is no excuse to thrash your tiny little manhood in my presence. Your fapping is NOT a pick-up line!

Just because I enjoy pickles doesn’t mean I want yours.

Would I have been less upset if he were watching porn on silent? Probably not, I would have just had the cookies as proof of his guilt. I would have been just as furious.

I wonder if this bizarre shit happens to every woman or just me? Am I more in tune, do I notice things that others don’t? Is knowing that misogyny exists like believing in ghosts? If you know they are real you will experience them.

Ghosts are real and so are shitty men. I’m not saying that all ghosts are evil or that all men are bad, its like saying that all white people are racist or all blondes are less than genius.

It is true that because some men are jerks and some white people are racist that men need to make extra effort in sensitivity and white people need to know their privilege and break the cycle of hate and misunderstanding. I am a natural blonde genius, clearly.

Stereotypes, while not a blanket, do sometimes have a basis in truth. We all just need to learn to be kind and pay attention to break the shitty stereotypes that exist and not feed into them.

Back to the wanker: I was in no way being suggestive. I was being “customer service” cordial. I love my job, it is truly magical, but just like any other service job where you deal with live breathing warm blooded human beings you will find assholes that think the rules don’t apply to them.

For the most part his crotchal region was covered by a sweatshirt on his lap, but then I saw for a tiny flicker of a moment something pink and glistening out of the corner of my eye. Like a dog’s red rocket. Again it was gone as soon as it was out.

I had no solid (or even flaccid) proof that I wasn’t insane and seeing things. If it was out for all to see I would have put on a protective rubber glove and yanked him out into the cold by it like a mom with her naughty son’s ear.

The last straw was the next morning when I went to the basement to change the laundry and he was sitting in the dark alone with a blanket covering his crotch. Again I heard familiar fapping, as if he was just waiting for someone to catch him. Gross dude, now I definitely have to wash that blanket.

There are pages of people talking about public masturbation on the internet, doing it in school, or church, ect. So many people enjoy things better when they think they might get caught. Yea sometimes I poop with the door open, but not at somebody else’s house.

Sometimes when you are horny you just gotta jerk off, it’s natural, it’s totally cool! Do not feel guilty for masturbating or watching porn. Masturbation can be a positive way to release energy, not a social stigma or deviance.

We all do it. Just do it in a private place and not at the expense of an innocent bystander. It is spacial rape and blatant disrespect, you are taking over a public place with your private matter. Do not assume that anyone else wants to see what you are doing, even if being caught is part of your kink, think before you put that on someone.

Consent is Awesome! See :)
I get off with a little help from my friends! (with their consent)

Great places to jerk off:
In your own bed!
In a rented bed!
In the bathroom! (hey some places even have glory holes)
In the shower (easiest clean up)
In the car! (when its parked somewhere remote)
In an abandoned building!
Locked in the utility closet at work.
Under a tree in the middle of the woods (like deep woods, not a park or playground, creeper)
In a shady adult movie theatre designed for that stuff with a person who is knowingly paid to mop jizz.
NOT IN FRONT OF UNWILLING PEOPLE!

If the only way you can get off if by having people watch then go to a sex club! Download some hook up apps or search Craigslist personals. Fetlife is also an incredible resource for alternative sexual preferences. Surf the internet for two minutes and you will find others who are into the same fetish lifestyle you are.

Consent is so fucking cool! Involving someone who did not give you consent in your sexual game is the same as rape, remember that next time.

Halloween is this coming Monday and we can expect a hearty mix of cute kids in costumes going door to door for candy and drunken idiots who think a cheap dollar store mask excuses obnoxious behavior. Despite the occasional incidents of idiocy, Halloween is by no means dangerous. The holiday the night before is an entirely different matter.

Devil’s Night, also known as Mat Night here in Quebec, is a night for pranks and mischief. It is celebrated throughout Canada and US and is believed to date back to Ireland in the 1880s. Though originally a night for fairies and goblins, it has evolved into a night for pranksters. Some believe the custom of handing out candy on Halloween developed in an attempt to appease jokers with sweets in order to spare their property.

In Quebec, Mat Night used to be celebrated by taking people’s doormats and switching them, ringing doorbells and running off, and by leaving a flaming bag of dog feces on someone’s doorstep. For those unfamiliar with this particular prank, the prankster fills a paper bag with dog poo, puts it on someone’s doorstep, lights it on fire, rings the doorbell, and runs away. When the occupant opens the door and sees the fire, they will presumably stamp it out, thus ruining their shoes.

Other common Devil’s Night pranks include egging people, toilet-papering houses, dumping rotten produce on front porches, smashing pumpkins, covering cars in shaving cream, and tipping garbage cans. In the US, the nature of the prank depends on the location.

In rural areas, pranksters tip outhouses and open the gates of livestock pens. In Detroit, Devil’s Night is a night for arson and was undoubtedly the inspiration for the setting of the 1994 film The Crow. Arson is so prevalent on this night in Detroit that in 2008, the mayor recruited thirty thousand volunteers to try and prevent the mayhem.

Mischief in Canada comes with a price. Laws against mischievous behavior make what might seem like a harmless prank an indictable offense with serious penalties.

The crime of mischief is a property offense, meaning it’s a crime that affects people’s stuff, not their person. In order to be guilty of the crime of mischief, an offender has to have willfully destroyed or damaged property, rendered the property “dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective”, obstructed, interrupted, interfered with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property, or interfered with a person’s lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of it.

Mischief laws also apply to computer-related offenses. That means that if you’re the type to stay in on Devil’s Night and prefer to pull your pranks from behind your computer screen, you might still be criminally liable.

The law specifically prohibits the willful destruction or alteration of computer data rendering data meaningless, useless, or ineffective, obstructing, interfering, or interrupting the lawful use of the data, and interfering with a person’s lawful use of said data or denying that person access to information that they are legally entitled to.

The penalty for mischief varies according to the degree of danger involved. If the prank endangered someone’s life, the prankster is liable for life in prison. If the prank damaged property worth five thousand dollars or more, the prankster is looking at a prison stay of up to ten years unless the prosecution agrees to a summary conviction, which has a lesser penalty. Where the value of the damaged property is less than five thousand dollars, the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment unless you get a summary conviction.

If you play a prank at a location that has meaning for society, the penalties for mischief change.

Religious properties such as churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, cemeteries associated with them, and objects on their grounds are protected by specific anti-mischief laws. If the prank was motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on religion, race, colour, or ethnic origin, the offender is looking at a maximum prison sentence of ten years, regardless of the value of the property. Just as in other mischief offenses, it is possible to get a summary conviction, but unlike regular mischief offenses, a summary conviction for this kind of prank comes with a maximum sentence of eighteen months.

The penalties for acts of vandalism on War Memorials vary. If the prosecution opts to charge the prankster with an indictable offense, the offender is looking at a maximum of ten years in jail. If it’s a summary conviction, the penalty is a maximum of eighteen months. Unlike other mischief offenses, this one comes with a minimum punishment: a fine of a thousand dollars for a first offense, at least fourteen days in jail for a second offense. Every subsequent offense will get a prankster thirty days in the slammer.

As with everything, there are good, harmless pranks, and there are bad ones. The good ones are funny for all involved, prankster and victim, and require a maximum cleanup of a hose, some water, and maybe a trash can. The bad ones leave permanent damage to both public and private property and to our collective consciousness by making people frustrated, angry, and feeling unwelcome and unappreciated.

This Devil’s Night, in the wake of heated cultural and political debates, economic strife, and disputes between young and old, it is time to remember what the holiday is really all about: a bit of harmless fun to keep people on their toes.

* Featured image via YouTube screengrab

Remember January 1st 2000? Or December 21st 2012? Those were supposed to be the End Of Days, the Apocalypse. I am no Nostradamus but I have a prediction, a new arbitrary date for the end of the world. November 8, 2016. Civilization as we know it will crumble, only the rich and slithering will survive.

When Chris Wallace (from Fox News), the moderator of the United States Presidental debate last night, said “I am not a potted plant here!” it resonated with me. I feel that way too! I am screaming for it to stop and nobody listens.

Sometimes all of the propaganda really gets to be overwhelming, I feel like my voice is lost in the chaos. Sitting there in a window, someone forgot to water me, and I am not a cactus. I am a dried up succulent, an ancient aloe vera maybe, spiky and sincere.

My tendrils need attention, they are covered in dust. If nourished my insides can heal, my ideas can save the world, a natural combatant of inflammation, squeeze me out on to your wounds, I will kiss them and make it all better. Houseplants bring oxygen and warmth to a room. We need it as the earth is dying because of humanity’s overall greed and lack of conscience.

houseplants

If politics doesn’t kill it I believe this world will end with Terminators Vs Zombies. It is a movie that hasn’t been made yet, but is totally plausible. The rise of machines is taking away jobs (more than immigrants as Donster has complained about).

People are also becoming zombies to technology. It is scary when I am sitting on my laptop in front of the desktop and texting on my cellphone at the same instant. Or a table full of children at the dinner table sit mouth open staring onto their glowing devices instead of having conversations with their family. It is all so in your face, fast and present. technology is bizarre and is turning people into literal zombies.

Now we also have the clowns to deal with. Clowns are taking over the US. Creepy clowns yielding weapons are trying to lure kids into the woods. GREAT!

There are so many things to be terrified of this Halloween season. I am terrified that people are supporting Donald Trump. Currently I am watching shit spew from his stupid, racist, misogynist mouth. It makes me sick when his supporters speak out. I go to the Halloween store and see their faces in mask form. Its absolutely bizarre.

Amy Schumer called Hilary Clinton “Hilldog” when she performed at her birthday dinner. I was a big Bernie Sanders supporter at the time, and not as Gloria Stienam would say “for the boys.” I actually thought he had a good heart, he cared about people and the environment, he was not evil. The current candidates are a “lesser of two evils” scenario.

Falling asleep at the wheel of life, swerving the car and trying to blast the music and open the window of cool air to the face. This government should crash and burn. I am afraid because these are the same idiots that elected George W Bush TWICE!

The people who run the government are the ones you don’t see. All of the candidates and winners are mere puppets. The strings are being pulled by an omniscient secret society, perhaps the Illiminati? But I don’t want to seem crazy. Billionares giving money to these politicians expect something in return, much like a guy buying me a drink and expecting more. I don’t accept drinks for that very reason.

trump-mafia
Photo of Egbert Bickley by John Hickey from the Buffalo News

In a world where some women are not even attractive enough to grope, let alone vote, Trump constantly belittles women, venomously wanting to take away our rights. I am disgusted when I see his supporters, there is a man in South Buffalo, my neighbor, that has his house painted with signs that say Trump Mafia and has a noose hanging on the front lawn. Strange fruit indeed. WTF?

Trying to deal with my own problems and I am bombarded with so much else. I can’t even clean my room, can’t pick up my phone because it’s all bill collectors. I think about all the loves I have lost or never got the chance to love, I contemplate loneliness and the survival of society. Then there are places where they push gays off buildings and kill women.

“If you don’t like what I did you should have changed the laws,” you should have stopped me from being an asshole Trump says, admitting to wrong doing and saying it was HER fault for not stopping him? WHAT?! Blame women. She is rehearsed and he is crude. I want a Native American President. Imagine going back to nature. If I can’t have that, I really want anarchy!

I work at a hostel and was watching the debate with people from around the world. I wanted to hear their perspectives at the idiocracy in front of us.

bubbles and catsSometimes you just need to come home to your house full of cats and beautiful creative roommates and smoke a bowl and drink a tall boy. Purry furry love nuggets – unconditionally waiting, ready to cuddle.

I have always done better with animals than people even. It goes animals, then kids, then old people, then adults, then my peers (I will never see myself as an adult).

wandering plantMy cats are my world. We watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch. A story of the triumph of love and search for self worth in an imperfect world. Punk rock opera perfection, escape from the vicious reality.

Like all humans I have hopes and dreams, I hope the world doesn’t really end on November 8th and I dream of a future filled with constant change.

I yearn to travel, I want to go to Poland and see the blue light up fairy bike path. I want to backpack through Germany. I want to paint in Paris. I want to smoke in Amsterdamn. I want to lounge in Jamaica. I want to paint with Elephants in Thailand. I want to kiss the Blarney Stone. First I need a passport.

If you want to be a painter, paint, if you want to be a musician, make music. If you want to be a politician, be an asshole, be a puppet, be a phoney.

I vote for the houseplants, for the trees and the animals. I vote for the children, for the future. I vote for the good clowns. Since the Apocolypse is Meow there is no time but the present.

On October 13th, 2016, Lou Dobbs, anchor of the Fox Business Network’s show Lou Dobbs Tonight, posted a link to the home phone number and address of Jessica Leeds on Twitter. Leeds is one of many women openly accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault shortly after a video surfaced of him bragging about his habit of pawing women without their consent.

The post was eventually deleted, though whether that was done by Twitter, Fox, or Dobbs himself is unclear, and it was already too late. The post was shared at least eight hundred times before it disappeared from Dobbs’ Twitter feed. When he was called out on what he did, his apology was nothing short of pathetic, Tweeting simply:

“My Retweet, My Mistake, My Apology to Jessica Leeds,” the subtext being that the only thing he is sorry for is that people called him on it.

This article is not about Lou Dobbs.

It is not about the fact that his tactics prove him to be nothing but a poor journalist. If Dobbs is resorting to posting Jessica Leeds’ home address and phone number in order to incite Trump followers (who are known for their violent behavior) to attack and threaten her into silence, it is because he is incapable of refuting her claims with researched facts. It is not about the fact that he has helped turn Trump’s campaign into the ugliest in history.

This is not about him. He, like the Republicans’ offensive excuse for a presidential candidate, has had enough attention.

doxing-flandersThis is about doxing.

Doxing is the publishing of the personal information of an individual on the internet, usually without their consent, in order to cause the victim distress, fear, embarrassment, and shame.

According to Danielle Citron, law professor at the University of Maryland and author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, the victims of doxing are primarily young women who are stalked online with threats of rape and sexual humiliation with the intent of silencing them and forcing them offline. It is a tactic commonly employed by Men’s Rights’ Activists (MRAs) who do it to anyone criticizing their fight to have raping women legalized worldwide.

One MRA who visited Montreal and was publicly shamed for tarnishing our city with his presence has encouraged the practice among his followers in an attempt to scare off his critics. When he himself was doxed, he suddenly became against it, at least for himself.

Though Canada has no specific law criminalizing doxing, our existing laws fill this void just fine when you think about what the act entails.

People post home addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, and private email addresses with the intent that someone other than them will see it and steal, harass, and threaten death, rape, or worse.

Fortunately, in Canada we have section twenty two of the Criminal Code which says that anyone who counsels someone to commit an offense is considered party to said offense. That means that if you encourage someone to commit a crime, you are considered as guilty of the crime as the person who actually did it even if they did it in a way other than the one you recommended. That also means that you are subject to the exact same penalties.

Let’s say you post a woman’s home address on social media and say that she should be raped. That night someone sees your post and goes and rapes her. If the rapist convinces the authorities that they got the idea from your social media feed, you might be charged with rape and face the same five or fourteen year prison sentence (depending on the degree of violence involved) as the rapist.

If you post a person’s private email address and phone number and encourage your followers to make death threats, rape threats, or threats of bodily harm, and they do it, you’ll be looking at the same eighteen months to five years as the people making the threats.

In order to get the same penalty, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you actively and willfully sought to encourage people to commit the crime and that you knew or ought to have known that a crime was likely to be committed as a result of your encouragement.

The laws to punish doxers are already in place. The only thing protecting doxers is police indifference. Reddit Moderator Blake Hebb, for example, had a lot of trouble convincing the authorities to investigate when he was doxed and harassed in 2015.

But hope is not lost.

In the June 2015 ruling of the Provincial Court of British Columbia in Regina v. BLA, a seventeen year old received a custodial sentence of sixteen months plus eight months supervision after he doxed, harassed, threatened, and “swatted” (tricking emergency services and police to send responders based on a false report) female gamers who refused his demands to chat with him and show him their butts.

The laws to fight doxing are there and the authorities are slowly beginning to enforce them. It is up to us to make sure they keep listening. That means reporting every incident and making a big stink if the police and RCMP are dismissive.

Contact the press and shout it from the rooftops if you have to. No more letting predators hide behind their computers unpunished while they get others to do their dirty work. If they encouraged and made it easier for someone to hurt you, threaten you, destroy your property, kill your pets, or steal from you, they are just as guilty as the ones who did it and should be punished the full extent of the law.